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Short-term and Extreme climates causing Agricultural risks at the FRontier Of the Neolithic Transition

Too distant and too coarsely resolved climate records have been one of the fundamental and unsolved problems of studying human-climate interactions of the past, preventing the study of the immediate impacts of major climatic shifts during major cultural developments in Prehistory.

One result of this discrepancy is the debate of whether or not large-scale climatic trends and the short-term extreme events they caused controlled the spread of farming across the Mediterranean.

Crucially, the key climatic patterns influencing agricultural decision making occur on sub-annual time scales and are almost invisible to common climate-archives and thus archaeologists. Often they are only available in the form of singular snap-shots through the expensive analysis of seasonal environmental records, such as mollusc shells.

Recently, the applicant has successfully tested Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) as an efficient way of inexpensively increasing the amount of analysed shell specimens per study from 10 to 1,000 specimens. This breakthrough opens up a new approach to bridging the disconnect between large-scale climatic events and short-term local expressions that were actually experienced by agricultural pioneers.

Using sub-annual datasets of archaeological shells from 5 key sites (Franchthi, Grotta dell’Uzzo, Grotta d’Oriente, Cyclops, Haua Fteah) at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, this project will provide a new way of directly testing whether the internal dynamics of economic, cultural and social changes within the archaeological record were externally induced by major climatic shifts.

Niklas Hausmann
Niklas Hausmann
Emmy Noether Group Leader

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